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The Chasm just might be the greatest Death Metal band ever, and even if they aren't, they are sure in the runnings. This is their most recent album to date, The Spell of Retribution, and while I haven't had the time to allow Conjuration of the Spectral Empire to sink in, this is my favorite The Chasm album right now. The band started out as a darker, gloomier beast with a lot of creepy atmosphere, but they quickly evolved into a full-on Death Metal machine with raging riffs and a kinetic, almost progressive style of songwriting laced with melody and technicality and at least a few metric tons of aggression. Their consistency is near unmatched, and I think the main reason it's so amazing is because they don't rest on their laurels. Tons of bands, like Dismember and Cannibal Corpse, have had careers full of an ironclad conviction to their craft, but they play more down-to-Earth styles, with shorter albums and a more standard Death Metal template, whereas this band constantly pushes the envelope in that regard, constantly writing songs with tons of different parts and time changes, always remaining interesting and vital, never going through the motions and never ceasing to amaze.
The band doesn't even really have to be aggressive here. They've got nothing to prove. On the past couple of albums, The Chasm were always at maximum energy, viscerally ripping your throat out while also being melodic and intelligent, always wowing the listener with extremities and intricate songwriting, like a pack of rabid wolverines. On The Spell of Retribution, you get a different kind of feeling, like the band has taken on the form of a massive, weight-heavy monster, sitting in a cave, surrounded by the decaying bones of its devoured enemies. This album doesn't leap out at you like the last two did, it lets you come to it, and then it rolls over you and slowly suffocates every last breath out of your enervated corpse. It doesn't really rip your face off as the band did before, except in some places, but it is still quite visceral and aggressive in a more relaxed manner, if that makes any sense - a huge, towering behemoth that doesn't even need to lift a finger to put fear into anyone that passes. This is a very heavy album, with a thick, crunchy guitar tone and long, long songs that bludgeon borderline-Thrashy riffs into your head while the dark, occult melodies creep and weave themselves around them in an aurally pleasing manner that only The Chasm can do. The wave of sound just engulfs you, in a manner similar to Deathcult, but entirely different in execution, and more preferable, to these ears.
I think one of my favorite things about this band is Daniel Corchado's distinctive growling style. The band's lyrical musings are always very short and succinct, so Corchado utilizes a unique style of Death Metal vocals where it sounds kind of like he's reciting some kind of ancient chant, speaking over the music with this cryptic, somber tone that just fucking works, and it's really something you have to hear for yourself, for my description will never do it justice. That about sums up the whole sound of this band, actually. Corchado plays the guitars, alongside Julio Viterbo, in a very distinctive ways as well, pumping out lead-iron riffs that twist and writhe and embody both Death Metal and Metal as a whole, galloping and charging forward with a warlike conviction that I just love, and Antonio Leon's drumming keeps up the pace beautifully, always catchy and vital to the sound, always the obscure back-beat in this maddening catacomb of occult insanity.
The songs on here don't really function individually, and while they all sound good and have their own identities, listening to this album all the way through is truly the only way to get the full effect, like with any great album. "The Omnipotent Codex" kicks things off with a mighty Death Metal stomp, blaspheming and fucking your mind in at least five different directions, and it's followed by the galloping, epic majesty of "Conquerer & Warlord," which uncoils quickly and heaves away for almost eight minutes with pounding riffs and a gripping pace. "Fortress" has a blisteringly fast, almost Thrashy tempo, and a gut-ripping solo towards the end, and then right after that we're hit with the doomy, atmospheric "Retribution of the Lost Years," but nothing will prepare you for the horrific, unforgettable maw of the gaping and Hellish "The Eclipse: Monument to the Empire," which packs some of the greatest riffs the band has ever penned. And when the whole thing comes together as one, it is an unforgettable and kingly testament to the greatness of Metal as a whole. Highly recommended to all who think they are brave enough to enter the Chasm...